Page 1299 - Week 04 - Thursday, 5 May 2022

Next page . . . . Previous page . . . . Speeches . . . . Contents . . . . Debates(HTML) . . . . PDF . . . . Video

I would also like to extend my thanks to all of the people across the community who have worked tirelessly within the community, legal and government sectors to advocate for reform to address the issue of consent in our community. Misconceptions and misinterpretations of consent across our community and our laws have contributed to cultural misunderstandings that perpetuate and excuse sexual assault and violence. Recognising this, there have been increasing calls for the ACT to adopt an informative, communicative model of consent.

This was one of the recommendations of the Sexual Assault, Prevention and Response Program final report. I would also like to commend Dr Paterson for working closely with the Sexual Assault, Prevention and Response Law Reform Working Group in developing this bill and for continuing to engage in the discussions about improvements to the bill, following its introduction to the Assembly.

An affirmative, communicative model of consent is about upholding each person’s right to bodily and sexual autonomy. The model legislated through this bill clearly states that consent means informed agreement to a sexual act that is freely and voluntarily given and communicated. This definition is important, providing clarity to our community about what consent is and what consent is not.

I note and support the amendments Dr Paterson has proposed to be made to this bill today. These amendments to the bill and the explanatory statement will provide greater clarity as to how the affirmative, communicative model of consent will operate in practice and reduce the likelihood that these changes will be misinterpreted. I note that the amendments will also enable a more comprehensive review of the impact of the legislation to be undertaken, giving us a stronger understanding of whether and what further work might be required to implement the new law of consent.

The impact of this bill will not be limited to legislative change alone. Legislation can be a meaningful mechanism for community education and cultural change. Reforming the law on consent in this case will support our efforts in the ACT to address and dispel myths about consent and shift community attitudes towards respectful and equal sexual relationships. We know, though, that, while law reform is an important mechanism to improve responses to sexual violence, law reform on its own is not enough and this must be accompanied by wide-ranging community education initiatives focused on achieving cultural change. We heard this loud and clear from the Sexual Assault, Prevention and Response Program’s recommendations to government in its report Listen. Take action to prevent, believe and heal.

The legislative reforms in the bill will support and be supported by educative and social measures, focused on primary prevention and cultural change—explaining how the model of affirmative consent fits within a framework of equal and respectful relationships. Working to improve our community’s understanding of consent is important. It is as important as law reform. As the Victims of Crime Commissioner said:

We cannot continue to hold up the criminal justice system as the ideal justice response for survivors because that is simply a promise we cannot fulfil.

Next page . . . . Previous page . . . . Speeches . . . . Contents . . . . Debates(HTML) . . . . PDF . . . . Video